Meaning of Yoga

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When we think of Yoga, we used to think of some old bearded yogi standing on his head, or more recently of young beautiful men & women in athletic clothing posing serenely, or a class full of people stretching on yoga mats. But actually the meaning of yoga is far beyond any of the physical gymnastics we tend to associate with the word. There are many systems of yoga, namely; karma yoga, jnana yoga, dhayana yoga, hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, and so many patterns of yoga. But as we understand from the Bhagavad-gita:

…in the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly stated that…yoga means to get into touch with the Supreme Lord. The process, however, includes several bodily features such as āsana, dhyāna, prāṇāyāma and meditation (from purport SB 1.2.28-29)

…The word yoga means “link.” Any system of yoga is an attempt to reconnect our broken relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are different types of yoga, of which bhakti-yoga is the best. In other yoga systems, one must undergo various processes before attaining perfection, but bhakti-yoga is direct. (from purport SB 10.2.6)

…The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward the destination of bhakti-yoga. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga, without fruitive results, is the beginning of this path. When karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation, the stage is called jñāna-yoga. When jñāna-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by different physical processes, and the mind is on Him, it is called aṣṭāṅga-yoga. And, when one surpasses the aṣṭāṅga-yoga and comes to the point of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, it is called bhakti-yoga, the culmination. Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyze bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand these other yogas. The yogī who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal good fortune. One who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogī, jñāna-yogī or dhyāna-yogī, rāja-yogī, haṭha-yogī, etc. If one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that he has surpassed all the other yogas. Therefore, to become Kṛṣṇa conscious is the highest stage of yoga, just as, when we speak of Himalayan, we refer to the world’s highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered to be the culmination.

It is by great fortune that one comes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness on the path of bhakti-yoga to become well situated according to the Vedic direction. The ideal yogī concentrates his attention on Kṛṣṇa, who is called Śyāmasundara, who is as beautifully colored as a cloud, whose lotus-like face is as effulgent as the sun, whose dress is brilliant with jewels and whose body is flower garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahmajyoti. He incarnates in different forms such as Rāma, Nṛsiṁha, Varāha and Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He descends like a human being, as the son of Mother Yaśodā, and He is known as Kṛṣṇa, Govinda and Vāsudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities. If one remains fully conscious of these features of the Lord, he is called the highest yogī. (Bhagavad-gita 6.47)

The very word yoga means connecting link with the supreme being. We accept Krishna as the supreme being, and nobody is equal to him or greater than him. (Letter to Sri Krishna C. Batra – Vrindaban 8 December, 1975)

Full Letter + References

Letter to: Sri Krishna C. Batra
8 December, 1975 Vrindaban

Sri Krishna C. Batra
Sri Aurobindo Ashram,
Pondicherry—605002

Dear Sir,

In reply to your letter dated 26 November 1975, I beg to submit herein that our International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a Bhakti yoga asram as it is enunciated in the Bhagavad-gita. The main purpose of the society is to understand the nature of God and our relationship with Him. The very word yoga means connecting link with the supreme being. We accept Krishna as the supreme being, and nobody is equal to him or greater than him. How he is supreme is lucidly explained in the Bhagavad-gita, and we try to revive our eternal relationship with him. In the Bhagavad-gita itself there are different processes of yoga systems, karma yoga, jnana yoga, dhayana yoga, hatha yoga, bhakti yoga and so many patterns of yoga. Others may practice different patterns of yoga, and we can understand that everyone is trying to pass on the path of yoga, but bhakti yoga is the ultimate goal, and if anyone is actually interested to understand God as he is, he has to come to the platform of bhakti yoga.

It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita that after many many births of practicing yoga, when one is actually mature he surrenders himself at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bahunam janmanam ante, jnanavan mam prapadyate, vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah [Bg. 7.19].
So this bhakti yoga is practiced by varieties of rendering service to the Lord, They are divided into nine prescribed methods as it is called sravanam, kirtanam visnoh, smaranam pada sevanam, arcanam vandanam dasyam, sakhyam atma nivedanam [SB 7.5.23]. The actual path to understand God is bhakti yoga as it is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, bhaktya mam abhijanati, yevan yas casmi tattvatah, tato mam tattvato jnatve, visate tad anantaram. [Bg. 18.55] “One can understand the Supreme Personality as he is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” This bhakti yoga is identical with Krishna consciousness this is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, Yoginam api sarvesam, mad gatenanteratmana, sraddhavan bhajate yo mama, sa me yuktatamo matah. (Bg. 6.47) And of all yogis, he who always abides in me with great faith, worshiping me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with me in yoga and is the highest of all.

So we teach our students how to think of Krishna 24 hours and thus become devotees of Krishna. When one becomes a devotee he worships Krishna by the above nine varieties of bhakti processes and remain always an obedient servant of Krishna, and the vivid example is Arjuna, how he engaged himself on the battlefield of Kuruksetra although he was not willing to kill the enemies on the other side, although they happen to be very near and dear kinsmen of Arjuna.

The conclusion is, when one gives up his concocted ideas of perfection and takes to Krishna consciousness just to render service to the Lord by following his direct order this perfection is actually attained by a pure devotee, so much so that a pure devotee constantly engaged in the service of the Lord can get direct orders from the Lord, and then follow perfectly the instructions of the Lord.

Our society is open to everyone without any discrimination of cast, creed, color, sex, or position, anyone can join us and be trained up in Krishna consciousness. That is evidently proved that we have got more than 100 centers all over the world, including Africa, or other supposed backward countries. Everywhere the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra is being chanted without any difficulty and all of them are becoming pure Vaisnavas. They are completely giving up the four principles of sinful activities, namely illicit sex life, meat eating, intoxication, and gambling, and thus they are making progress in the matter of understanding Krishna consciousness very perfectly.

The addresses of our India centers are listed as follows, ISKCON Bombay, Hare Krishna Land, Gandhi Gram Rd. Juhu 54. ISKCON Hyderabad, Hare Krishna Land, Nampally station Rd. Hyderabad. ISKCON Delhi, 19 Todar Mal Lane, Bengali Market, New Delhi. ISKCON Calcutta, 3 Albert Rd. Calcutta 17 (Near Hindi High School). ISKCON Mayapur, P.O. Sri Mayapur Dham, Mayapur District Nadia, West Bengal.

Just this month we have sent preachers to Ahmedabad and Kanpur for opening centers, and we are planning to build a gorgeous Krishna Arjuna temple at Kuruksetra in co-operation with the late home minister G.L. Nanada.

We have published more than 50 big books in the English language such as Bhagavad-gita as it is, Caitanya Caritamrta, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and others. For a complete catalog of our publications write the secretary at New Delhi temple.
Thank you for your interest.

Respectfully yours,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

ACBS/hda

Also as referenced in above letter:

Bhagavad-gita As It Is 1972 Edition
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Chapter 6, Text 47

yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ

yoginām—of all yogīs; api—also; sarveṣām—all types of; mat-gatena—abiding in Me; antaḥ-ātmanā—always thinking of Me within; śraddhāvān—in full faith; bhajate—renders transcendental loving service; yaḥ—one who; mām—Me (the Supreme Lord); saḥ—he; me—Mine; yuktatamaḥ—the greatest yogī; mataḥ—is considered.

And of all yogīs, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.

PURPORT

The word bhajete is significant here. Bhajete has its root in the verb bhaj, which is used when there is need of service. The English word “worship” cannot be used in the same sense as bhaja. Worship means to adore, or to show respect and honor to the worthy one. But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can avoid worshiping a respectable man or a demigod and may be called discourteous, but one cannot avoid serving the Supreme Lord without being thoroughly condemned. Every living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus every living entity is intended to serve the Supreme Lord by his own constitution. Failing to do this, he falls down. The Bhāgavatam confirms this as follows:

ya eṣāṁ puruṣaṁ sākṣād ātma-prabhavam īśvaram
na bhajanty avajānanti sthānād bhraṣṭā patanty adhaḥ

“Anyone who does not render service and neglects his duty unto the Primeval Lord, who is the source of all living entities, will certainly fall down from his constitutional position.”

In this verse also the word bhajanti is used. Therefore, bhajanti is applicable to the Supreme Lord only, whereas the word “worship” can be applied to demigods or to any other common living entity. The word avajānanti, used in this verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is also found in the Bhagavad-gītā: avajānanti māṁ mūḍhāḥ: “Only the fools and rascals deride the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Kṛṣṇa.” Such fools take it upon themselves to write commentaries on the Bhagavad-gītā without an attitude of service to the Lord. Consequently they cannot properly distinguish between the word bhajanti and the word “worship.”

The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward the destination of bhakti-yoga. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga, without fruitive results, is the beginning of this path. When karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation, the stage is called jñāna-yoga. When jñāna-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by different physical processes, and the mind is on Him, it is called aṣṭāṅga-yoga. And, when one surpasses the aṣṭāṅga-yoga and comes to the point of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, it is called bhakti-yoga, the culmination. Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyze bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand these other yogas. The yogī who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal good fortune. One who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogī, jñāna-yogī or dhyāna-yogī, rāja-yogī, haṭha-yogī, etc. If one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that he has surpassed all the other yogas. Therefore, to become Kṛṣṇa conscious is the highest stage of yoga, just as, when we speak of Himalayan, we refer to the world’s highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered to be the culmination.

It is by great fortune that one comes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness on the path of bhakti-yoga to become well situated according to the Vedic direction. The ideal yogī concentrates his attention on Kṛṣṇa, who is called Śyāmasundara, who is as beautifully colored as a cloud, whose lotus-like face is as effulgent as the sun, whose dress is brilliant with jewels and whose body is flower garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahmajyoti. He incarnates in different forms such as Rāma, Nṛsiṁha, Varāha and Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He descends like a human being, as the son of Mother Yaśodā, and He is known as Kṛṣṇa, Govinda and Vāsudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities. If one remains fully conscious of these features of the Lord, he is called the highest yogī.

This stage of highest perfection in yoga can be attained only by bhakti-yoga, as is confirmed in all Vedic literature:

yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau.
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ.

“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”

Bhaktir asya bhajanaṁ tadihāmutropādhi nairāsyenāmuṣmin manaḥ kalpanam; etad eva naiṣkarmyam. “Bhakti means devotional service to the Lord which is free from desire for material profit, either in this life or in the next. Devoid of such inclinations, one should fully absorb the mind in the Supreme. That is the purpose of naiṣkarmya.”

These are some of the means for performance of bhakti or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the highest perfectional stage of the yoga system.

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